Jefferson makes long-awaited return for Aces

Moriah Jefferson shoots in her first return to the court in almost a year. Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Moriah Jefferson shoots in her first return to the court in almost a year. Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

Third-year Las Vegas Aces guard Moriah Jefferson returned to the court Sunday for the first time in nearly a year, after rehabilitating from a knee injury that required surgery.

Jefferson didn’t score in her team’s loss to the Los Angeles Sparks in 11:03 of play, but said it was good to be back.

“I think I just have to slow myself down,” Jefferson said. “I got to a point today where I got up to speed, and now I have to slow myself back down. I’m just taking it one game at a time.”

Picked No. 2 by the former San Antonio Stars in the 2016 draft, Jefferson started all 34 games her rookie year and averaged 13.9 points, 4.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds in 30.4 minutes of play per outing. She was named to the All-Rookie team at the end of the season.

Last year Jefferson was hampered by her knee and started only nine games, in which she averaged 9.1 points and 4.4 assists. She missed the last four games and had surgery in September. She wasn’t able to play overseas as she had the previous winter, and instead helped promote the Aces as they relocated to Las Vegas.

Jefferson, who helped the Connecticut Huskies win four National Championships, said it was the longest she’s been away from basketball since she began playing as a child.

“It was hard,” she said. “I just focused on my rehab, knowing that I never wanted to do what I did again. I had to work on my knee as well as other parts of my body so that when I went back on court I could ensure that nothing like that ever happened again.”

Rehabilitation meant embracing new training modalities.

“I did a lot of stuff. There was the underwater treadmill, I did Pilates, yoga, and other different strengthening techniques and things I’d never done in my life,” Jefferson said. “So my body feels great, and now it’s just about getting used to being back on the court.”

Jefferson has remained involved with the team, and has worked to transition with the changes.

“We have a new team, a new coach, new players and a new system, so for me, I watched from the bench,” she said. “I tried to understand (her teammate’s) tendencies, what their favorite plays are.”

She said the team’s inexperience showed in their loss to Los Angeles.

“We played hard the second half, but in the first half we didn’t come ready to play,” Jefferson said. “We didn’t follow our defensive schemes, but if we do that it’s a different game. We will learn from our mistakes and move on.”

Despite her own youth, Jefferson acknowledged that Aces players usually treat her more like a veteran.

“It is kind of weird – they always come to me and ask me questions,” she said with a laugh.